Critical Race Theory and other Nonsense

My opinion is worth a hill of beans, but since people are asking for it, I’ll give it.

Several people have asked me about Critical Race Theory in the past week. They are concerned as what they perceive as a socialist or “liberal” agenda in education and culture. When I ask them to define it, they really aren’t sure what Critical Race Theory is other than to repeat a few platitudes they hear from cable news.

I ask them if they have any experience with the complexity of race and race relations outside of what they see on said cable news. Some have great stories to tell, but most don’t.

I ask how their experiences relate to Critical Race Theory, and they don’t have an answer.

It seems that the only people talking about Critical Race Theory are the people on cable news.

I don’t know anything about Critical Race Theory–never heard of it, in fact–although I have been enmeshed in race and gender studies for the last 20 years. Which tells me one thing: Critical Race Theory is bologna. Those who discuss it as if they know what they’re talking about are full of bologna.

In fact, if you get right down to it, the only people talking about it are people who want to divide Americans. They only want to fear-monger to draw more viewers to their talk-shows. They only want to distract from real issues that are complicated, and they want to convince you that “theories” on the margins of society are widespread just like ole’ McCarthy claimed there were communists under every rock.

Let me be even more clear: The only people talking about this come from people who only want one thing: more money based on viewers and advertisers: Fox News and CNN, both of which are not real news sources. In a recent litigation regarding a lawsuit, in fact, Fox News lawyers claimed that Fox News is an entertainment channel, not a news channel.

If you get your “news” about race theories from an entertainment channel, then what does that say about us as a society?

So what is Critical Race Theory? I don’t know. It is a distraction maybe, likely used to take get people riled up. It intends to confuse people about real issues regarding race and race reconciliation.

It bates conversations so people can’t have conversations. Consider this: Because you spend more time watching cable television than reading your Bible, if I bring up race or even say the word “race” in church, people will think that I am talking about Critical Race Theory. They will say, “That pastor believes in Critical Race Theory.” Then I will be fired because Fox News teaches people that people who talk about race are socialists, liberals, or communists.

So we can’t talk about race, because cable news is framing the conversation in an “us vs. them” format. And if we can’t talk about race, then we can’t talk about real issues that need to get resolved. I can no longer speak freely from the pulpit because you beholden me to your favorite pundits. Do pundits really provide us the standard of what we can and can’t talk about? I’m afraid so.

So please don’t ask me about Critical Race Theory. Its nonsense.

Let’s talk about real issues, like real estate and how people of color still struggle getting the same interest rates on home loans as white folk. Or redlining, let’s discuss that.

Let’s talk about medical care where inequities still exist.

Let’s talk about education–not made up of nonsense by the likes of governors–but real education in which we make it our goal to have young people think critically and understand historical context rather than to push far-left and far-right agendas.

Let’s talk about how people of color can’t walk into a store without being followed by managers and store clerks. Or about how self-deputized HOA presidents in communities where there are no HOAs say that they are only applying outdated HOA rules so that “those people” don’t put an offer on your neighbor’s house. Let’s talk about real things like that. (And those two instances are just from my personal experiences.)

Let’s talk about Jesus.

If you quote Tucker Carlson more than Jesus, we have a problem.

If you bring hostility to the conversation more than a sense of hospitality in which you are more concerned about stating your opinion than saving souls, we have a problem.

If you make stuff up because you have to protect your pride than see that real problems exist, we have a problem.

If you want to talk about facts and figures rather than political talking points or divisive propaganda, then let’s do that.

The Pastor’s 2021 Reading List

It’s that time again. Every year, I collate the library of books I read. Unlike other lists, which merely serve as wish-lists for what we want to read, I only list what we read. Sometimes I don’t finish the whole book, but that’s not the point.

What is the point? To let you know what this pastor reads, and to inspire you to read too. Let God not accuse me of adding to the illiteracy of ‘Merica.

Connecting the Dots, by Fred Craddock. My favorite preacher, now two years gone, writes of his early life and calling to the ministry. Although the book is not typical Craddock (he is a much better oral storyteller than writer), it is captivating to see how God planted the seeds of a ministry that became world-renowned.

The Craft of Preaching, by Fred Craddock. I figure since I read his memoir, I would snag his latest collection of lectures and lessons on preaching. Filled with practical tips and whimsical stories, Craddock is at his best in discussing the mechanics of sermon formation and biblical narrative exegesis. I have used at least three or four of his stories in my sermons in the past two months already…

The Young Minister, by Peter Goulding. I thoroughly enjoy reading books and religious material from the early 20th century. In fact, I would say that it makes for some of my favorite reading. What frustrates me most, however, is when I stumble upon an amazing book for which there is little information on the internet. My research shows that Goulding’s book, about a young minister settling into what it means to be pastor in the New England town of Knotty Ash, is a novel.

The library of congress categorization of such affirms it to be fiction, but it certainly doesn’t read like fiction. Goulding, writing from first-person narrative, uses his own name in the narrative and writes as in keeping a real-time memoir. His dedication is to “Stella”, who plays prominently in his story. That doesn’t sound fictitious to me. But, true to form of other books I’ve read from the 1940s, it is a real page-turner, and I can relate to many of Goulding’s antics and circumstances in the ministry. I am thoroughly enjoying it, and I am grateful that one of my own parishioners, Jane, gave me the book, “A gift,” she said, “From my mother who has been deceased for quite some time.” Thank you, Mom! I’ll cherish it and add it to my religious literature collection from that era, right alongside Harry E. Fosdick and Paul Scherer.

New Every Morning, by Philip Howard. Touted as an “uncommon devotional book,” this book of short entries provides a pastor’s musings on nature, humanity, the vocation of ministry, and on biblical lessons in every day life. I enjoyed the content, and started my own spiritual autobiography based on its rhythm and tone. And the line drawings interspersed within its pages, by Howard’s brother, James, also inspired me to pick up my own pen-and-paper while I went on a retreat to St. Simon’s Island this past winter. It is a first edition published by Zondervan in 1969, right at the tale end of my favorite era of religious literature, and you can tell that I enjoyed it immensely. I am uncertain at the moment how I acquired this treasure of a book.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. Imagine a world where firefighters start fires instead of extinguishing them, and that’s what you get when you read Bradbury’s timeless dystopian novel. Writing in a nuclear age of uncertainty, Bradbury envisions a future in which big government censors education and critical thinking not only by banning and burning books, but by keeping people addicted to opioids, screens, and talk radio on “ear seashells” — his version of ear buds. When I read this in March, I would sometimes look up from my book to see my children and wife on their respective screens, be it laptops or phones, listening to earbuds. And then I wondered just how Bradbury knew what our future would bring!

I was supposed to read this book in 8th grade, but failed to do so. When I read it now, some 30 years later, I wonder why any middle school would assign the book. It is not the easiest book to read for that age group. But I’m glad I read it now in my old age. I get Bradbury’s future, but more importantly, I feel that in many ways–especially with cancel culture on the move–that I am living it.

Mrs. Dallaway, by Virginia Woolf. My first foray into the world of Modernist literature did not fail me. I always wanted to read Woolf, whom many claim was ahead of her time. I found that to be true–and her insight into every little “thought” — read: stream of conscience — is both engaging and inspiring. That kind of writing can get tedious at times, but it is a world of wonder to see how authors of Woolf’s caliber created a world within a world. I was impressed, but I don’t think I can read this kind of literature long-term!

The Book of Revelation, by Robert Mounce, The New International Bible Commentary of the New Testament. Every once in a while, I come across a commentary that I want to read for fun. Since I enjoy the book of Revelation, and read something on Revelation almost once a year, I chose this book this year because I have had good luck with the NIBCNT before, especially in my studies on the Gospel of Luke. I recognized Mounce’s name because he wrote a textbook on Greek, and his writing in this commentary is no less powerful. I found the commentary to be engaging, accessible, and–in some ways–creatively balanced in scope and scholarship. Mounce doesn’t play into any theological agenda, but gives the facts straight on a biblical book that is near impossible to pin down.

My only critique is that he wrote before a time when “reading from the margins” became important in the life of scholarship. For that reason, Mounce does not address the subversive, satirical nature of Revelation, a reading that is most comfortable in liberationist readings of the text. Something is always missing when we fail to read Revelation from a “bottom up” approach in which we don’t take into account how oppressed, marginalized communities might find hope in a book written from the oppressed, margins of the Roman Empire.

KnuckleBALLS, by Phil Neikro. I am currently reading this book by the late Hall of Fame pitcher of the Atlanta Braves (and others…), Phil Neikro.